The Teaching Realm: An interview with Sarah Farrell #8

The Reading Realm Blog Series: Educators doing extraordinary things

“When I get a chance, I’ll spend a whole day reading. I used to take a book with me to school or university every day and read on the walk home!”

Name: Sarah Farrell

Twitter handle: @SarahFarrellKS2

Link to blog/website: https://mrsfclassroom.wordpress.com/

What is your current position? Year 6 teacher and greater depth reading lead

When, how and why did you get into education? What did/do you want to achieve?

This is my fifth year in teaching! I always wanted to be a teacher, so I did a degree in English Language/Education followed by a PGCE. I absolutely love anything to do with language, especially grammar! I wanted to be able to help children to achieve their full potential and now specialise in greater depth reading and writing as they are my main interests. Having a child be unable to write simple sentence when they first come to my class and be able to write coherently and inventively when they leave is just so rewarding.

How do you feel the education landscape has changed since you started in your role?

The main difference has to be the change in the SATs, as they’ve become much more high-level. Controversially, I actually really like the SATs (especially the SPAG) as I’ve found that it has really helped my class to understand sentence structure and they have been able to apply their knowledge to their writing.

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“I cried my eyes out!”

What are your earliest memories of reading and writing?

I used to write stories all the time at home and I was always reading! My dad used to read with my brother and I, and I remember always being excited to go to the library in the summer holidays to get more books from the library reading scheme. We always had books on the go, and we definitely had a culture of reading in my house.

How do you try and foster a love of reading in children?

Choosing fun and exciting books to read at the end of the day and making that time special rather than just another part of the day. Also, by exposing them to a wide range of texts during reading comprehension lessons as quite often the children then find something that they’re interested in and want to go to the library to find out more!

What has been your most successful reading or writing lesson or activity with children?

While reading Arthur, High King of Britain, we designed a ring that had magical powers. We then wrote an Amazon page to advertise it, followed by writing formal and informal reviews from people who said that it didn’t work. I loved it and they did some amazing writing! I also run greater depth reading comprehensions interventions which always have a writing outcome, and these have produced some fantastic writing as they have been really engaged in a high-quality book!

What advice would you give to parents whose children say they don’t like reading?

They just haven’t found the right thing to read! Also, remember that you don’t have to read a massive book- graphic novels, comic books, magazines, blogs, etc all count

What books do you remember from your childhood? Do you have a favourite?

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“Famous Five, Secret Seven, Redwall, Anthony Horowitz (Stormbreaker series, Diamond Brothers series), Jaqueline Wilson books, Roald Dahl books, Harry Potter… so, so many to choose from!”

Famous Five, Secret Seven, Redwall, Anthony Horowitz (Stormbreaker series, Diamond Brothers series), Jaqueline Wilson books, Roald Dahl books, Harry Potter… so, so many to choose from! I think my favourite was the Faraway Tree. I still have the same books that I read when I was a child and I just can’t bear to get rid of them!

What was the first book that made you cry?

Out of the Ashes by Michael Morpurgo- I cried my eyes out! Several books have made me cry, but I much prefer to read books which make me laugh- unless I’m trying to read on the train or bus!

What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?

Not necessarily widely under-appreciated, but I rarely come across anyone who’s read it- The Fire Within by Chris d’Lacey.

Have you ever experienced reader’s block?

Only if I’ve been too busy through work. When I get a chance, I’ll spend a whole day reading, although that’s usually because I like very suspenseful books which are hard to put down. When I first read The Casual Vacancy, I was reading non-stop while cooking, walking around the house, etc. I used to take a book with me to school or university every day and read on the walk home!

Are you drawn to a particular genre or type of book or do you read a variety of genres?

Personally, I’m drawn to thrillers and mystery books (particularly psychological thrillers). I end up reading them in one go! For school, I like to choose a wide variety.

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Sarah is currently reading I See You by Clare Mackintosh.

What book are you currently reading?

Personally, I’ve just finished I See You by Clare Mackintosh. In school, we’re reading Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz. It’s really interesting re-reading a book that I loved as child, especially from the point of view of a teacher.

Where’s your favourite place to read?

It sounds weird, but on the landing in my hallway (next to the radiator). I’m not fussy though- I’ll read anywhere!

Which three books would you recommend to primary school aged children and why?  

  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • The Fire Within by Chris d’Lacey
  • The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan.

Finally: in one sentence, what does reading for pleasure mean to you?

Reading for pleasure means wanting to get lost in a book and explore a new world for yourself, rather reading because you’ve been told that you must.

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